Scammers have siphoned off a staggering US$32 million from over 10,000 Zimbabweans through Ponzi Schemes over the past three years, marking a concerning trend of financial exploitation. In response to the surge in such fraudulent activities, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe’s Financial Intelligence Unit issued a public warning in July this year.

The cautionary message followed the arrest of Zhao Jiaotong (39), the alleged mastermind behind the E-creator online Ponzi scheme, which left numerous individuals financially devastated. Two years ago, authorities revealed that in that year alone, 10,000 Zimbabweans lost an estimated US$30 million to Ponzi Schemes.

National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, disclosed, “At least 10,000 complainants reportedly lost over US$30 million between them,” further stating that they had dealt with 892 cases involving numerous victims. The scams have led to devastating consequences, with individuals losing homes and, tragically, some resorting to suicide upon discovering they had been deceived.

Prominent Ponzi schemes include Beven Capital, responsible for a US$17,823,000 scam affecting 2,000 people; Bitcoin Interchange Zimbabwe, where 43 individuals reported losses of US$765,935; and Delight Credit, investigated after investors suffered a US$100,000 loss.

The issue of online scams extends beyond Zimbabwe, with Interpol’s Online Scams report revealing that Africa loses over US$500 million of its GDP annually to various online scams, including email scams, romance fraud, and social media scams.

In South Africa, a federal judge recently ordered the restitution of US$1.7 billion to victims in the United States affected by the collapse of Mirror Trading International (MTI), a bitcoin trading scheme. Described as an “international fraudulent multilevel marketing scheme,” MTI faced legal consequences for violating U.S. laws.

Botswana experienced its own Ponzi scheme with the Ecoplexus scam, claiming to invest victims’ funds in the products of a legitimate U.S. company specializing in renewable energy projects. This scheme reportedly defrauded hundreds of people, resulting in losses running into tens of millions of pula.